National Governors Association Advocates Extension of REAL ID Deadline

March 17, 2020

The Honorable Chad Wolf
Acting Secretary
Department of Homeland Security
Washington, D.C. 20528

Dear Acting Secretary Wolf:

Governors, states and territories across the country are rapidly mobilizing to respond to and mitigate the impact of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Given the recent challenges associated with travel restrictions, several airports have been overwhelmed by new screening requirements. Additonally, in order to slow the impact of COVID-19, several states have closed our Departments of Motor Vehicles and other state facilities.  

We remain concerned about the prolonged impact of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) on our states and territories, supply chains, the travel industry and the economy. On behalf of the nations’ governors, we urge the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to institute an extension of the REAL ID program for no less than one year.

We believe an extension will allow all of us to focus our efforts on combatting the spread and severity of COVID-19. More time will also give Congress the ability to pass legislation that will update the 2005 REAL ID Act and bring it up to speed with today’s technology. This will also give DHS time to make regulatory changes.

Governors support the intent and purpose of the REAL ID Act. States and territories are investing their resources to raise public awareness, provide timely REAL ID services, and adopt best practices to achieve feasible REAL ID benchmarks. Despite these efforts to comply with the law, the 15-year-old statute has not kept up with today’s technology. Additionally, the current regulatory framework creates unnecessary administrative burdens and constraints. This has led to slower and lower levels of issuance of REAL ID compliant cards as well as frustrations for American citizens. 

Governors recommend several administrative, regulatory and statutory changes to accomplish our four top goals. Governors believe these recommendations will help to:

  • expedite issuance of REAL ID compliant cards,
  • ensure better messaging and education of American citizens,
  • increase resourcing at the state, territorial and federal level, and
  • maintain security standards while implementing innovative technological solutions.

We appreciate your consideration of this important issue and urge immediate action. Please find our recommendations as an attachement to this letter.

Sincerely,

The National Governors Association

Recommendations:

The National Governors Association recommends the following administrative, regulatory and statutory changes to accomplish four top goals. Governors believe these recommendations will help to:

  • expedite issuance of REAL ID compliant cards,
  • ensure better messaging and education of American citizens,
  • increase resourcing at the state, territorial and federal level, and
  • maintain security standards while implementing innovative technological solutions.

Administrative Policy and Regulatory Changes:

  • DHS should immediately update its list of acceptable Real ID identity verification documents for application presentation, including, documents currently accepted by TSA for satisfying airport security protocol.
  • DHS should create a unified, national marketing plan to intensify public outreach that will educate more American citizens, avoid excessive delays and minimize additional costs to states and territories
  • DHS should set up an exception process for older applicants and vetted populations.
  • DHS should delay the recertification process until such a time that a state and territory is at least at a 75 percent issuance rate.
  • Consider State-to-State REAL ID reciprocity, eliminating the need to repeat documentation and verification processes.
  • Create an easy-to-use, online and print resource documents for applicants, such as a required document checklist.

Federal Statutory Changes:  

  • Provide funding for states through a REAL ID state grant program to support increased staffing, training and public education efforts.
  • Modernize the REAL ID Act to keep pace with new and innovative technological innovations.
  • Appropriate dedicated funding to DHS for a national marketing campaign.
  • Clarify within the Act the ability for states, territories and DHS to recognize and accept electronic verification of documents through federal and state systems rather than requiring paper documents.
  • Allow states and territories to utilize information from currently existing federal travel programs, such as TSA Pre-Check and Global Entry.